The Rapture of Elijah

2 Kings

The Rapture of Elijah

November 26th, 1961 @ 7:30 PM

2 Kings 2:1-15

And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel. And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho. And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the LORD hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan. And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground. And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so. And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over. And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.
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THE RAPTURE OF ELIJAH

DR. W. A. CRISWELL

2 Kings 2:1-15

11-26-61    7:30 p.m.

Now in the Book we turn to 2 Kings chapter 2; the second chapter of 2 Kings, and we begin reading at verse 9 and read through verse 15, 2 Kings chapter 2, verse 9 through verse 15.  And all of us read it together, following the life of Elijah.  This is his translation to glory; 2 Kings, chapter 2, verse 9 through verse 15, now all of us reading it together:

And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee.  And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.  And he said, Thou has asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.

And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horseman thereof.  And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.

He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan;

And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah?  and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.

And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha.  And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.

[2 Kings 2:9-15]

We begin at the first of the chapter.  When this incomparable translation occurred, Elijah was in the prime of his life.  There was no evidence of physical decay in him.  His eye was not dim nor was his natural strength abated.  In the very prime of his life, there was given to this prophet of God an exodus beyond anything in the history of the human race except one man, Enoch [Genesis 5:24].

How many of us would have been like Elijah in the greatness and in the humility of that hour of celestial sublimity?  For when God made known to His prophet that he was to have this glorious exodus out of this life and into the presence of the Almighty without dying—caught up to God in a whirlwind of sublimity, of heavenly, heavenly welcome and invitation—when that was made known to Elijah, ah! how he could have spoken of it. But he made known to no one God’s secret.  He could have invited all of Israel to line the banks of the Jordan River and to line the cliffs and the summits of the gorges to see him wafted up to glory; not any of that is found in the spirit of Elijah.  Though it was one of the most celestial things that God could bestow upon a man, he confided it not even to Elisha.  The only thing that Elisha knew was by the intuitive Spirit of God within him; nothing from Elijah in this incomparable departure.  So Elijah, going to that rendezvous with God, conversing with Elisha his successor, makes his way from Gilgal to Bethel to Jericho and then on the other side, on the eastern side of the Jordan.

Now what does a man do when in just a few minutes he is to be in the presence of the great Almighty?  The best thing is what Elijah did: not to give ourselves to penance, and to repentance, and to prayer, and to soul cleansing, and to self-abdication, and to devotions, and all of those things that we usually think of as concomitants to the time when a man is to depart this life.  The best way for a man to do is thus to live, that when the time comes for God to call him home that he just keeps on doing it, just like Elijah did.  Knowing of that marvelous celestial departure, Elijah visits the schools of the prophets as he had done many times before.  And he discourses with Elisha, as he had done in the years before, and he continues the same way, as he had done in the years before, up until the final moment of his glorious rapture up to heaven.  That is the way we ought to be.

A farmer was asked, “If you knew the Lord God was coming in five minutes, what would you do?”  And the farmer said, “If I had five minutes before the Lord comes, I’d finish plowing this row out through the end.”  A factory or an office or a kitchen is as fine a place from which to be wafted up to glory as the greatest cathedral of the greatest sanctuary in the land; and any place where you are working is as fair an eminence to be raised up to heaven as Olivet or Pisgah or the other side of the Jordan.  It is a great place; it is a fine place, where a man works, honestly, faithfully, devotedly and just continues at it until the end, just like Elijah.

And now as they walk along together and talk together on the other side of the Jordan, Elijah had sought at Gilgal and at Bethel and at Jericho and at the Jordan to send Elisha back.  The reason for that was he was testing the spirit of his successor.  Had there not been an importunity in Elisha, “As the Lord liveth, my lord, I will not leave thee, as thy soul liveth” [2 Kings 2:2, 4, 6], had there not been importunity and dedication in Elisha, he would have gone back, but Elisha stood the test.  And when Elijah saw in his successor that great commitment and that unbounded dedication, then he turned to Elisha and opened wide the door; “Ask, ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee?  Ask anything” [2 Kings 2:9].  And how pleased Elijah the man of God must have been when Elisha asked not for fame, or fortune, or wealth, or position, or prestige, or long life, but he asked, “I pray thee that a double portion of thy spirit rest upon me” [2 Kings 2:9].

That doesn’t mean that I might have twice what Elijah has, but like unto the law of the firstborn in Deuteronomy [Deuteronomy 21:17], he asked that he might have the privileges of the firstborn.  A double portion was given to the eldest son, and Elisha asked that of the spirit of Elijah, “that a double portion of thy spirit might rest upon me” [2 Kings 2:9].  You see, facing the great assignment of his prophetic office, Elisha intuitively felt like the Lord Jesus knew of His disciples: “You tarry at Jerusalem, until you be endued with power from on high” [Luke 24:49].  Wait!  Wait, for your work cannot be done except in the unction and the visitation and the power of the presence of the Spirit of God.  “Wait,” said Jesus to His disciples.  And intuitively, Elisha felt that same thing.  “Oh, my father…that a double portion of thy spirit might rest upon me” [2 Kings 2:9], that I might be endowed, and able and enabled for my prophetic calling.  And Elijah said to Elisha, “Thou hast asked a hard thing.”  Then he gives him the criterion.  “If thou seest me when I be taken away, it shall be so.  If not, it shall not be so” [2 Kings 2:10].  Now there is nothing absurd, and there is nothing hard or impossible or unfair in that criterion.  For you see, it takes spiritual eyes, it takes spiritual eyes to enter into the mysteries of God.

And when Elijah gave that test to Elisha about whether he would see him or not when he was taken away and raptured up to glory, that is the test of the spiritual eye, the sensitivity of the true man of God, for the heavens are filled with the glory of the Almighty.  And the lightning rides the backs of God’s cherubim, and the forked powers of heaven are chained in the hands of His cherubim.  But we don’t see it because we are carnally minded, and our eyes are blinded by the material dedications of our lives.

Had we been there, had we been there, we would have seen nothing but the bare desert and the empty, scenery around us, though the air in the sky is filled with the flaming presence of the cherubim and the seraphim and the angels of Almighty God.  It takes eyes to see them.  And Elijah said to Elisha, “If you see, if you see when the chariot comes from God to take me to heaven, then you will have your reward” [2 Kings 2:10-11], if you are able to see it—spiritual eyes to see the presence and the power and the flaming host of Almighty God.

Isaiah in the temple saw the Lord high and lifted up in the Holy of Holies, in the sanctuary, and His train filling the temple [Isaiah 6:1].  But when the imperious Roman legionnaire, Pompey, the only Gentile who ever pulled aside that veil and entered into the Holy of Holies, when Pompey walked into that same sanctuary, he said, “Why, it’s empty. There is nothing here!”  But Isaiah saw in that same place, the Lord high and lifted up whose glory filled the temple—with eyes to see, with eyes to see [Isaiah 6:1].

In the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of John, the Lord God spoke to Jesus.  But the people who were around just heard a noise.  It was Christ whose ear attuned to heaven could hear the voice [John 12:28-29].  On the Damascus road it was Paul who saw the vision of the exalted and risen Lord.  His companions saw nothing at all.  It was Paul who heard the great call of God to his apostolic ministry; the people just heard a sound and that was all [Acts 9:3-7].  It takes spiritual ears, it takes spiritual sensitivity, it takes spiritual eyes to see the presence of the Lord God Almighty.  And that was the criterion by which Elijah made that promise to Elisha: “If you have eyes to see, if you see, if you see when the angels come down and I am wafted to glory, your promise, your request will be answered” [2 Kings 2:10]. 

And Elisha had that penetrating spirit of the soul.  When you turn the page to the sixth chapter of 2 Kings, when that servant of Elisha was so distressed because of the armies around them [2 Kings 6:15], Elisha said to God, “Lord, open the eyes of the young man.”  And then the Lord opened his eyes, and the Book says, “And the mountains were filled with horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” [2 Kings 6:17], but only the prophet could see them [2 Kings 6:16].  It was a fair critique: “If you see me, it will be done unto you,” and Elisha saw it [2 Kings 2:10-11].

“My father, my father!” [2 Kings 2:12].  And now you have here recorded one of the sublimest occurrences, one of the most heavenly and celestial of all of the incidents that has ever taken place in the story of the people of the Lord: the rapture, the translation of Elijah up to heaven [2 Kings 2:11-12].  I want you to look at three things about it.  One: I want you to notice the fitness of the place.  It was not in the smiling vineyards and the beautiful cornfields of Esdraelon and Jezreel; it did not take place there.  It didn’t even take place down in Sinai, the holy mount and desert of God, but it took place on the other side of the Jordan where Elijah had grown up, where he had lived as a boy.  And in one of those lonely and rocky gorges, there did the Lord transport Elijah up to heaven [2 Kings 2:11].

 I want you to look at a second thing: how fitting is the manner in which he was taken.  It says that he went up to heaven by a whirlwind [2 Kings 2:11]; this whirlwind of a man, with his impetuous and driving and thrusting and marching spirit, he went up to glory just like he had lived in his prophetic ministry.  And notice another thing.  Notice the farewell, the exclamation of Elisha: “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof!” [2 Kings 2:12].

Here is not “dust to dust and ashes to ashes,” but here is the spirit to the Spirit, the fire to the fire, the man of God to the Lord God Himself.  And he went up in a whirlwind, in a chariot of fire into the presence of Almighty God [2 Kings 2:11].  Oh, wouldn’t you like to know more?  It’s told in half of a sentence and that’s all.  The sons of the prophets at Jericho looked to see, but the receding figures were lost in the distance, and the intervening hills hid them out of view, and the one participant who was left behind, the one observer, the prophet Elisha [2 Kings 2:12].  It happened so quickly and so suddenly that even his eyes did not have opportunity to look upon the celestial cortege narrowly, and to scrutinize it minutely, and it’s told in just a moment.  And Elijah was carried away into glory [2 Kings 2:11].

Now, may I make three remarks about it, and then I am through?  The first remark: you have here God’s idea of death: death is not a condition; it is not a state—not to us.  Death is a door, it’s a passageway, it’s a bridge; death is our ultimate entrance into glory.  As we are born in an act into this life, so in one single act are we introduced into the life that is to come.  Death to the Christian, to the child of God, is a triumph.  It is a taking off of mortal coil that binds the spirit, and we are liberated and taken up into glory; “absent from the body, present with the Lord” [2 Corinthians 5:8].

The second observation: this is a type of, and an illustration of, that final and ultimate rapture of the people of Christ into the presence of the Lord, when this mortal shall have put on immortality and when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption [1 Corinthians 15:52-54], when this body of humiliation shall be exchanged for the house made without hands, eternal in the heavens [2 Corinthians 5:1]—raptured into the presence of the Lord God.

And the third observation: the prophetic ministry that God carries on when His workmen are taken away.  And Elisha took his mantle and wrapped it together and smote the waters of the Jordan, and they divided hither and thither.  And they too went on over on the dry ground through the waters of the Jordan [2 Kings 2:13-14].  Faith always is like that.  When the muddy waters of the Jordan stand in between, faith smites the waters and follows and presses through to the assignment, and to the task, and to the duty, and to the high call that God has given the servant of the Lord.

And now when Elijah went up to heaven, his mantle fluttered down to the feet of Elisha, and Elisha took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan [2 Kings 2:13].  On the other side, lay his ministry, and his assignment, and his call in God, and a duty to which the Lord had impressed him.  And between that same water of the Jordan—and he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him—and he smote the waters just like Elijah had done and said, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” [2 Kings 2:14].

And when he had smitten the waters, the same power, and the same glory, and the same unction, and the same visitation that had enabled Elijah in his ministry came upon Elisha, and the waters were parted hither and thither, and he went over [2 Kings 2:14].  And when the sons of the prophets which were to view, who were standing, looking from Jericho, when they saw Elisha come back by himself, they looked on him, and they said, “The spirit of Elijah doth rest upon Elisha” [2 Kings 2:15].

How do you know?  How do you know?  How did they know?  How did they know?  When the Spirit of God sets apart a man for a gospel ministry and the unction from heaven falls upon him, you don’t need to describe, you don’t need to delineate, you don’t need to conjugate, you don’t need to try to formulate; it’s just there, and you just know it.  When the Spirit of the Lord God falls upon His servant, He buries His servant, the work is carried on, the weary laborer is taken home.  The prophetic succession never dies.  God’s servant falls; God’s servant is raised up in his stead.  And the Spirit of the Lord God that breathed and moved in the soul and the life and ministry of Elijah comes upon Elisha.  God buries the workman, but the work goes on.

Always, God has His successor.  God has His man.  God has His preacher.  God has His people.  God has His work.  It will be that way until the Lord shall take us all to glory.  When the task is finished, and the assignment is done, God’s man and God’s work will be done in the earth.

I have one little thing that I want to add about seeing and knowing the power of the Spirit of God upon a man.  It’s not something you describe.  It’s not something that you can delineate.  It’s not something you can put in formula.  When the Spirit of the Lord is upon a man, when the unction of heaven is upon him, you just know it.  You just do.  How?  I want to say a little word about that.  One of the noblest and most moving things that I have read about B. H. Carroll, who founded our seminary at Fort Worth and who for so many years was pastor of the First Baptist Church in Waco; back there in those 1800s, infidelity was violent.  In those days, it was crude and rough and challenging.  And men who were violently unbelievers and blaspheming infidels were outspoken and challenged men of God.  Well, it was such in the city of Waco in those days.  You go back and read some of those iconoclasts that they had surrounding Baylor and some of the things that happened, they were amazing!  I’ve never read such!

Well, B. H. Carroll was in the midst of those iconoclasts and those outspoken infidels.  And upon a day, he challenged them to attend a morning hour and a morning service in the church in Waco.  And to show their contempt for God, and their contempt for the preacher, and their contempt for Christ, and their contempt for His church, why, they came to the eleven o’clock morning worship hour.

Now, before they remodeled it and for the years of that church there, the preacher’s study was just to the left—when I held a meeting there, that is where I was and came out from the study into the pulpit to preach—B. H. Carroll was in the study.  And when they got through singing, and when the time came for the man of God to preach, he was still there in the study.  And the people sang, and they waited, and they had a prayer, and they sang again, and they waited.  And when the man of God opened the door and stepped out, they tell me he looked like Moses, anyway; about six feet four inches tall with a beard down to his waist.  They told me that when he opened the door and stepped out and stood behind the sacred desk, that there was a glow of the light of the glory of God in his face!  And they said one of those infidels stood up and looked at him, and said, “Today, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”  And down the aisle he came and gave his life openly, publicly in a changed commitment to Jesus as Lord and Christ, before B. H. Carroll said a word or preached a sermon.

“The spirit of Elijah doth rest upon Elisha!” [2 Kings 2:15].  How do you know?  How do you know?  When the Spirit of God moves in a congregation, you will know it the minute you step in that door.  How do you know it?  It just is.  When the Spirit of God moves in a service and moves in a congregation, you just know it is the ultimate presence of the Lord God Himself.  He is here, and you feel and you sense and you tremble, and your soul falls in adoration, and in humility, and in confession, and in dedication, and in commitment to the Lord God that moves, that lives.  Oh, and He is here, and He is here, and He speaks to you, and He makes appeal to you.

The Lord sanctify the appeal to your heart tonight, and while we sing our song of appeal, somebody you coming to the Lord , somebody you putting your life with us in the fellowship of the church, as God shall bless, and keep, and guide, and promise to sustain, come, make it tonight.

In this great throng in the balcony round, giving your heart in trust to Jesus, come tonight.  A family you, putting your life with us in the fellowship of the church, come tonight.  As the Spirit of the Lord shall lead in the way, shall open the door; come tonight; come tonight.  The Lord is here, and He bids you.  While we sing our appeal, make it tonight.  On the first note of the first stanza, “Here I come, preacher, I give you my hand, I give my heart to God.”  Make it now; make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.

THE RAPTURE OF ELIJAH

DR. W. A. CRISWELL

2 Kings 2:1-15

11-26-61     7:30 p.m.

Now in the Book we turn to 2 Kings chapter 2; the second chapter of 2 Kings, and we begin reading at verse 9 and read through verse 15, Second Kings chapter 2, verse 9 through verse 15.  And all of us read it together, following the life of Elijah. This is his translation to glory;2 Kings, chapter 2, verse 9 through verse 15, now all of us reading it together:

And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee.  And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.  And he said, Thou has asked a hard thing; nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.

And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

And Elisha saw it, and he cried, my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horseman thereof.  And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.

He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went there, and stood by the bank of Jordan.

And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah?  and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.

And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah does rest on Elisha.  And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.

We begin at the first of the chapter.  When this incomparable translation occurred, Elijah was in the prime of his life.  There was no evidence of physical decay in him.  His eye was not dim nor was his natural strength abated.  In the very prime of his life, there was given to this prophet of God an exodus beyond anything in the history of the human race except one man, Enoch.

How many of us would have been like Elijah in the greatness and in the humility of that hour of celestial sublimity?  For when God made known to His prophet that he was to have this glorious exodus out of this life and into the presence of the Almighty without dying – caught up to God in a whirlwind of sublimity, of heavenly, heavenly welcome and invitation – when that was made known to Elijah, ah! how he could have spoken of it. But he made known to no one God’s secret. He could have invited all of Israel to line the banks of the Jordan River and to line the cliffs and the summits of the gorges to see him rafted up to glory; not any of that is found in the spirit of Elijah.  Though it was one of the most celestial things that God could bestow upon a man, he confided it not even to Elisha.  The only thing that Elisha knew was by the intuitive Spirit of God within him; nothing from Elijah in this incomparable departure.  So Elijah, going to that rendezvous with God, conversing with Elisha his successor, makes his way from Gilgal to Bethel to Jericho and then on the other side, on the eastern side of the Jordan.

Now what does a man do when in just a few minutes he is to be in the presence of the great Almighty?  The best thing is what Elijah did: not to give ourselves to penance, and to repentance, and to prayer, and to soul cleansing, and to self-abdication, and to devotions, and all of those things that we usually think as concomitants to the time when a man is to depart this life.  The best way for a man to do is thus to live that when the time comes for God to call him home, that he just keeps on doing it just like Elijah did.  Knowing of that marvelous celestial departure, Elijah visits the schools of the prophets as he had done many times before.  And he discusses with Elisha, as he had done in the years before, and he continues the same way, as he had done in the years before, up until the final moment of his glorious rapture up to heaven.  That is the way we ought to be.

A farmer was asked, “If you knew the Lord God was coming in five minutes, what would you do?”  And the farmer said, “If I had five minutes before the Lord comes, I’d finish plowing this row out to the end.”  A factory or an office or a kitchen is as fine a place from which to be rafted up to glory as the greatest cathedral of the greatest sanctuary in the land; and any place where you are working is as fair an eminence to be raised up to heaven as Olivet or Pisgah or the other side of the Jordan.  It is a great place, it is a fine place, where a man works, honestly, faithfully, devotedly and just continue at it until the end, just like Elijah.

And now as they walk along together and talk together on the other side of the Jordan, Elijah had sought at Gilgal and at Bethel and at Jericho and at the Jordan to send Elisha back.  The reason for that was he was testing the spirit of his successor.  Had there not been an importunity in Elisha, “As the Lord liveth, my lord , I will not leave thee as thy soul liveth,” had there not been importunity and dedication in Elisha, he would have gone back, but Elisha stood the test.  And when Elijah saw in his successor that great commitment and that unbounded dedication, then he turned to Elisha and opened wide the door, “Ask, ask what I shall do for thee before I be taken away from thee?  Ask anything.”  And how pleased Elijah, the man of God must have been when Elisha asked not for fame, or fortune, or wealth, or position, or prestige, or long life, but he asked, “I pray thee that a double portion of thy spirit rest upon me.”

That doesn’t mean that I might have twice what Elijah had, but like unto the law of the firstborn in Deuteronomy, he asked that he might have the privileges of the firstborn.  A double portion was given to the eldest son, and Elisha asked that of the spirit of Elijah, “that a double portion of thy spirit might rest upon me.”  You see, facing the great assignment of his prophetic office, Elisha intuitively felt like the Lord Jesus knew of His disciples, “You tarry at Jerusalem until you be endued with power from on high.”  Wait!  Wait, for your work cannot be done except in the unction and the visitation and the power of the presence of the Spirit of God.  “Wait,” said Jesus to His disciples.  And intuitively, Elisha felt that same thing.  “Oh, my father…that a double portion of thy spirit might rest upon me,” that I might be endowed, and able and enabled for my prophetic calling.  And Elijah said unto Elisha, “Thou hast asked a hard thing.”  Then he gives them the criterion.  “If thou seest me when I be taken away, it shall be so. If not, it shall not be so” [2 Kings 2:10].  Now there is nothing absurd, and there is nothing hard or impossible or unfair in that criterion.  For you see, it takes spiritual eyes, it takes spiritual eyes to enter into the mysteries of God.

And when Elijah gave that test to Elisha about whether he would see him or not when he was taken away and raptured up to glory, that is the test of the spiritual eye, the sensitivity of the true man of God, for the heavens are filled with the glory of the Almighty.  And the lightning rides the backs of God’s cherubim, and the forked powers of heaven are chained in the hands of His cherubim.  But we don’t see it because we are carnally minded, and our eyes are blinded by the material dedications of our lives.

Had we been there, we would have seen nothing but the bare desert and the empty, scenery around us, though the air in the sky is filled with the flaming presence of the cherubim and the seraphim and the angels of Almighty God.  It takes eyes to see them.  And Elijah said to Elisha, “If you see when the chariot comes from God to take me to heaven, then you will have your reward,” if you are able to see it – spiritual eyes to see the presence and the power and the flaming host of Almighty God.

Isaiah in the temple saw the Lord high and lifted up in the Holy of Holies, in the sanctuary and His train filling the temple [Isaiah 6:1].  But when the imperious Roman legionnaire, Pompey, the only Gentile who ever pulled aside that veil and entered into the Holy of Holies, when Pompey walked into that same sanctuary, he said, “Why, there is nothing, there is nothing here!” But Isaiah saw in that same place, the Lord high and lifted up whose glory filled the temple – with eyes to see, with eyes to see.

In the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of John, the Lord God spoke to Jesus. [John 1-29]. But the people who were around just heard a noise.  It was Christ whose ear attuned to heaven could hear the voice.  On the Damascus road it was Paul who saw the vision of the exalted and risen Lord .  His companion saw nothing at all.  It was Paul who heard the great call of God to his apostolic ministry; the people just heard a sound and that was all.  It takes spiritual ears, it takes spiritual sensitivity, it takes spiritual eyes to see the presence of the Lord God Almighty.  And that was the criterion by which Elijah made that promise to Elisha: if you have eyes to see, if you see, if you see when the angels come down and I am raptured to glory, your promise, your request will be answered.

And Elisha had that penetrating spirit of the soul.  When you turn the page to the sixth chapter of 2 Kings, when that servant of Elisha was so distressed because of the armies around them, Elisha said to God, “Open the eyes of the young man.”  And the Lord opened his eyes, and the Book says, “And the mountains were filled with horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha,” [2 Kings 6:17] but only the prophet could see them.  It was a fair critique: “if you see me, it will be done unto you,” and Elisha saw it.

“My father, my father!”  And now you have here recorded one of the sublimest occurrences, one of the most heavenly and celestial of all of the incidents that has taken place in the story of the people of the Lord: the rapture, the translation of Elijah up to heaven.  I want you to look at three things about it: one, I want you to notice the fitness of the place.  It was not in the smiling vineyards and the beautiful cornfields of Esdraelon and Jezreel; it did not take place there.  It did not even take place down in Sinai, the holy mount and desert of God, but it took place on the other side of the Jordan where Elijah had grown up, where he had lived as a boy.  And in one of those lonely and rocky gorges, there did the Lord transport Elijah up to heaven.

 I want you to look at a second thing: how fitting is the manner in which he was taken.  It says that he went up to heaven by a whirlwind, this whirlwind of a man, with his impetuous and driving and thrusting and marching spirit, he went up to glory just like he had lived in his prophetic ministry.  And notice another thing.  Notice the farewell, the exclamation of Elisha: “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!” [2 Kings 2:12]

Here is not “dust to dust and ashes to ashes,” but here is the spirit to the Spirit, the fire to the fire, the man of God to the Lord God Himself.  And he went up in a whirlwind, in a chariot of fire into the presence of Almighty God.  Oh, wouldn’t you like to know more?  It’s told in half of a sentence and that’s all.  The sons of the prophets at Jericho looked to see, but the receding figures were lost in the distance, and the intervening hills hid them out of view, and the one participant who was left behind, the one observer, the prophet Elisha.  It happened so quickly and so suddenly that even his eyes did not have opportunity to look upon the celestial cortege narrowly, and to scrutinize it minutely, and it’s told in just a moment. And Elijah was carried away into glory.

Now, may I make three remarks about it, and I am through?  The first remark: you have here God’s idea of death: death is not a condition, it is not a state – not to us.  Death is a door, it’s a passageway, it’s a bridge; death is our ultimate entrance into glory.  As we are born in an act in this life, so in one single act are we introduced into the life that is to come.  Death to the Christian, to the child of God, is a triumph.  It is a taking off this mortal coil that binds the spirit, and we are liberated and taken up into glory; absent from the body, present with the Lord [2 Corinthians 5:8].

The second observation: this is a type of, and an illustration of, that final and ultimate rapture of the people of Christ into the presence of the Lord , when this mortal shall put on immortality and when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, when this body of humiliation shall be exchanged for the house made without hands, eternal in the heavens – raptured into the presence of the Lord God.

And the third observation: the prophetic ministry that God carries on when His workmen are taken away.  And Elisha took his mantle and wrapped it together and smote the waters of the Jordan, and they divided hither and thither.  And they too went on over on the dry ground through the waters of the Jordan.  Faith always is like that.  When the muddy waters of the Jordan stand in between, faith smites the waters and follows and presses through to the assignment, and to the task, and to the duty, and to the high call that God has given the servant of the Lord .

And now when Elijah went up to heaven, his mantle fluttered down to the feet of Elisha, and Elisha took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan.  On the other side, lay his ministry, and his assignment, and his call in God, and the duty to which the Lord had impressed him.  And between that same water of the Jordan – and he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him – and he smote the waters just like Elijah had done and said, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?”

And when he had smitten the waters, the same power, and the same glory, and the same unction, and the same visitation that had enabled Elijah in his ministry came upon Elisha, and the waters were parted hither and thither, and he went over.  And when the sons of the prophets which were to view, who were standing, looking from Jericho, when they saw Elisha come back by himself, they looked at him, and they said, “The spirit of Elijah doth rest upon Elisha.”

How do you know?  How do you know?  How did they know?  How did they know?  When the Spirit of God sets apart a man for a gospel ministry and the unction from heaven falls upon him, you don’t need to describe, you don’t need to delineate, you don’t need to conjugate, you don’t need to try to formulate; it’s just there, and you just know it.  When the Spirit of the Lord God falls upon His servant, He buries His servant, the work is carried on, the weary laborer is taken home.  The prophetic succession never dies. God’s servant falls; God’s servant is raised up in his stead.  And the Spirit of the Lord God that breathed and molded in the soul and the life and ministry of Elijah comes upon Elisha.  God buries the workman, but the work goes on.

Always, God has His successor.  God has His man.  God has His preacher. God has His people.  God has His work.  It will be that way until the Lord shall take us all to glory.  When the task is finished, and the assignment is done, God’s man and God’s work will be done in the earth.

I have one little thing that I want to add about seeing and knowing the power of the Spirit of God upon a man.  It’s not something you describe.  It’s not something that you can delineate.  It’s not something you can put in formula.  When the Spirit of the Lord is upon a man, when the unction of heaven is upon him, you just know it.  You just do.  How?  I want to say a little word about that.  One of the noblest and most moving things that I have read about B. H. Carroll, who founded our seminary in Fort Worth and who for so many years was pastor of the First Baptist Church in Waco; back there in those 1800’s, infidelity was violent.  In those days, it was crude and rough and challenging.  And men who were violently unbelievers and blaspheming infidels were outspoken and challenged men of God.  Well, it was such in the city of Waco in those days.  You can go back and read some of those iconoclasts that they had surrounding Baylor and some of the things that happened.  They were amazing!  I never read such.

Well, B. H. Carroll was in the midst of those iconoclasts and those outspoken infidels.  And upon a day, he challenged them to attend a morning hour and a morning service in the church in Waco.  And to show their contempt for God, and their contempt for the preacher, and their contempt for Christ, and their contempt for His church, why, they came to the eleven o’clock morning worship hour.

Now, before they remodeled it and for the years of that church there, the preacher’s study was just to the left – when I held a meeting there, that is where I was and came out from the study into the pulpit to preach – B. H. Carroll was in the study.  And when they got through singing, and when the time came for the man of God to preach, he was still there in the study.  And the people sang, and they waited, and they had a prayer, and they sang again, and they waited.  And when the man of God opened the door and stepped out, they tell me he looked like Moses.  Anyway, about six feet four inches tall with a beard down to his waist, they told me that when he opened the door and stepped out and stood behind the sacred desk, that there was the glow of the light of the glory of God in his face!  And they said one of those infidels stood up and looked at him and said, “Today, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”  And down the aisle he came and gave his life openly, publicly in a changed commitment to Jesus as Lord and Christ, before B. H. Carroll said a word or preached a sermon.

“The spirit of Elijah doth rest upon Elisha!”  How do you know?  How do you know?  When the Spirit of God moves in a congregation, you will know it the minute you step into that door.  How do you know it?  It just is.  When the Spirit of God moves in a service and moves in a congregation, you just know it is the ultimate presence of the Lord God Himself.  He is here, and you feel and you sense and you tremble, and your soul falls in adoration, and in humility, and in confession, and in dedication, and in commitment to the Lord God that moves, that lives.  Oh, and He is here, and He is here, and He speaks to you, and He makes appeal to you.

The Lord sanctify the appeal to your heart tonight, and while we sing our song of appeal, somebody you coming to the Lord , somebody you putting your life with us in the fellowship of the church, as God shall bless and keep and guide and promise to sustain, come, make it tonight.

In this great throng in the balcony round, giving your heart and trust to Jesus, come tonight.  A family you, putting your life with us in the fellowship of the church, come tonight.  As the Spirit of the Lord shall lead in the way, shall open the door; come tonight; come tonight.  The Lord is here, and He bids you.  While we sing our appeal, make it tonight.  On the first note of the first stanza, “Here I come, preacher, I give you my hand, I give my heart to God.”  Make it now; make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.